Scotland sues British government over veto of gender reform bill

April 12 (UPI) -- Scotland plans to file a legal challenge over the British government's veto of a controversial reform measure that would make it easier for people to legally change their gender.

The Scottish government said it will petition the Secretary of State for judicial review after Britain blocked the gender recognition reform bill in January, citing conflicts with other equality protections throughout the United Kingdom.


London struck down the legislation less than a month after it sailed through the Scottish Parliament with overwhelming majority support.

On Wednesday, Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville described the veto as "an unprecedented challenge to the Scottish Parliament's ability to legislate on clearly devolved matters and it risks setting a dangerous constitutional precedent."

The British government said it was prepared to "robustly defend" the decision which had irked Scottish lawmakers as Britain cited Section 35 of the 1998 Scotland Act as the basis to block the bill from becoming law.


"The U.K. government gave no advance warning of their use of the power, and neither did they ask for any amendments to the bill throughout its nine-month passage through parliament," Somerville said, adding that the legal challenge was the "only reasonable means of resolving this situation."

A court will determine the scope of Section 35 and whether it can be legally applied to cases in which transgender people seek to have their new gender legally recognized.

The legislation aimed to simplify the process of changing one's gender by nixing legal hurdles that required diagnoses or medical reports for the government to issue gender recognition certificates.

Under the proposed rules, people as young as 16 would be eligible to apply for official government papers.

The bill also calls for the two-year time period that adult applicants currently have to wait in their newly acquired gender to be cut to three months, while 17- and 18-year-olds will be required to wait six months to receive documents.

Previously, British Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack said the proposal would create "significant complications" due to disparate systems of gender recognition already in place throughout the country.

The issue has kept Westminster and the Scottish Parliament divided for months, with Ash Regan resigning as community safety minister last October just as debate on the matter was set to begin.


Several lawmakers in the leading Scottish National Party also broke ranks to vote against the measure.

Scotland's finance secretary Kate Forbes, who announced last month that she was leaving the government, said she planned to amend the legislation in hopes of ensuring its passage.

Former First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, who proposed the legislation six years ago, said Scotland's government would continue to defend the bill.

In January, she called London's move a "full-frontal attack on our democratically elected Scottish Parliament and its ability to make its own decisions on devolved matters."

Sturgeon's successor, Humza Yousaf, said Wednesday that legal action was Scotland's "only means of defending our Parliament's democracy from the Westminster veto."

The increased tensions between Britain and Scotland also threatened to add more strain to the issue of Scottish independence as the British government has blocked Scotland's request for independence twice since 2014.

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